"Motherly way" discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Unfortunately as with other types of discrimination it is on the increase.
According to (EEOC) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Spokesman David Grinberg, “The increase in pregnancy discrimination
charge filings and lawsuits is cause for concern.” Mr. Grinberg also states, “Pregnancy discrimination lawsuits by EEOC have increased about threefold from six or fewer per year in the early to late 1990’s, to 16 or more per year since 2001.”
Hello my name is Yancey I’m a mediator of disputes involving employment issues. I’m also an employee who has experienced discrimination and witness other employees suffer the same injustice. All discrimination whether its on the job or in society as a whole is shameful and destructive. In my view, discrimination against pregnant women and their spouses is especially despicable. Mistreating someone’s mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, fiance or wife for no other reason than the normal course of life should never be tolerated on or off the job.
If you are treated differently than other employees as a result being pregnant or recently given birth, it could be discrimination. So, what is pregnancy discrimination? According to the EEOC, “An employer may not single out pregnancy related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work...
...If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay.
Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer may not have a rule which prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth. Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.”
Pregnant Employee Rights
“However, an employer may use any procedure used to screen other employees' ability to work. For example, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy related conditions to submit such statements.”
Discrimination against pregnant employees can include:
different treatment from other temporarily disabled
withholding the similar job or position held when returning from pregnancy
refusing to give a male employee health insurance to cover his spouses pregnancy or related conditions
demoting or terminating
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment of Title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states, “Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.”
Associated medical issues such as…
bed rest ordered by a physician
all other connected medical conditions
…are a part of the what the law has determined to be a temporary disability in workplace pregnancy. Besides Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the other laws that protect employees and their spouses are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the (FMLA) Family Medical Leave Act.
Pregnant employees who qualify for disability leave and whose company, employment agency or labor union employs 15 or more are protected under Title VII. Female and male workers who have worked for one year for a company that has 50 or more employees are protected under FMLA. The Family Medical leave Act requires employers to provide unpaid leave so workers can care for their own serious illness or specific family illness. This leave also allows for the care of newborn and recently adopted children.
If you are pregnant and still able to work, your company cannot force you to take temporary or maternity leave before your due date. However, some employers seek to compel pregnant employees to leave their jobs beforehand. Employees are not required by law to tell their boss they are pregnant. Nonetheless, pregnancy is hard to hide and your employer may have leave guidelines that require you to tell them in advance. There may be different notice requirements for temporary disability, FMLA (if you qualify) and sick leave. You could learn about these procedures by…
reviewing the company handbook (if any)
asking the employer
discussing with union representation (if any)
talking to your company’s human resource department
Companies that have less than 15 employees are not required to give disability, FMLA, pregnancy or other leave covered by Title VII. Nevertheless, you may be covered by union contract (if any) and the laws of your state. The following are some cases of how employers discriminate against pregnant employees.
Boss fires you after telling him/her about pregnancy
Being reprimanded or docked for needing to take off for medical care related to pregnancy. However, other employees with ongoing medical treatment are not docked or disciplined.
A potential employer asks the applicant if she is pregnant or intend to get pregnant. These types of questions are illegal in job interviews.
An expectant mother works in a manufacturing plant and requests light duty due to being pregnant. She is denied the request and then fired. The employer doesn’t deny a similar request from another employee who had surgery.
It is illegal for a potential employer to deny a pregnant job seeker employment if she is able to perform the essential functions of the job applied for. The applicant is under no obligation to tell the interviewer about the pregnancy condition. However, the employer cannot make a decision on whether to hire based on this information if you choose to reveal it. But, if the company doesn’t hire you, proving discrimination because you are pregnant won’t be easy.
A pregnant employee is not the only one who has legal protections concerning discrimination and temporary disability leave. Spouses of pregnant employees who meet eligibility requirements are afforded maternity leave under FMLA, company guidelines and any other authorized leave. Many employers are still resistant to understanding the need for husbands taking time off to care for spouses and newborn babies.
Since the EEOC investigates employee claims of pregnancy and maternity discrimination here are some things to do if you are discriminated against or your leave request is denied.
Always request leave in writing
Maintain copies of all correspondence with the company
Read the employee handbook (if any) dealing with leave and disputes
Learn what the union (if any) grievance policy is
Maintain copies of all medical doctors, specialist, therapists, clinics, etc.
Consult with a legal professional or attorney about court deadlines for filing grievances
Violations and complaints of the Family and Medical Leave Act are investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor. Check with your state government to see what additional employee leave laws it may provide. If your employer is guilty of pregnancy discrimination you may be entitled to…
compensatory damages (pain and suffering)
reinstatement from being fired
punitive damages (punish the employer)
restored to your original employment condition (example; returned to 1st shift from 3rd shift)
promotion that was denied
payment of legal fees
The (ADA) American with Disabilities Act may apply as protection in some situations for pregnant employees. Pregnancy is considered as a “temporary disability” and might not be covered under ADA. However, if there are problems in the pregnancy you may be “disabled” under ADA guidelines. If your employer has 15 or more employees it will be required to provide a reasonable accommodation for you. This will enable you to perform the essential functions of the job. Always consult a qualified attorney who specializes in workplace disability issues when determining if ADA applies.
Unfortunately, discrimination against pregnant employees and their spouses continues to grow. That makes learning your rights and how to proving violations of those rights so important. Follow this link for more information on proving discrimination.